Benefits and Key Ingredients of the Anti-Inflammatory Diet

To adhere to a gluten-free diet, you need to avoid foods derived from wheat, barley, rye, triticale (a hybrid of wheat and rye) and contaminated oats as they all contain gluten. If you’ve become accustomed to eating gluten-free packaged and processed foods (like many other Americans), you might wonder what you should be eating instead.

One diet that focuses on nutritious, anti-inflammatory whole foods is the anti-inflammatory diet, and most of the foods included in it are naturally gluten free.

What is the anti-inflammatory diet?

Inflammation throughout the body can be influenced by a variety of internal and external factors, from injuries to chronic diseases. Obesity can also cause inflammation and stoke the development of cardiovascular and metabolic diseases. The goal of inflammation, as described by Lauren Whitt, PhD, is to, “detect and destroy the toxic material in damaged tissues before it can spread throughout the body…the trouble with inflammation occurs when the defense system gets out of control and begins to destroy healthy tissue.” A diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods, believe the researchers at the University of Alabama, can reduce the severity of painful inflammation.

The foods described in this article are known anti-inflammatory agents and, when added to a healthy gluten-free diet, can greatly improve your overall health and ease the pain of both acute and chronic inflammation, should you experience it.

The following naturally gluten-free foods recommended in an anti-inflammatory diet boast numerous nutritional benefits and can help to significantly improve the quality of your diet and your overall health, particularly if you have celiac disease, which is a malabsorptive disease.

Avocado makes a great appetizer

Avocados have become extremely popular as a healthy fat substitute. Rich in fatty acids and similar in nutrient values to olive oil, avocados have been shown to lower LDL (low-density lipoprotein), or bad cholesterol. Researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine found that natural compounds found in avocados may reduce signs of aging caused by inflammation. The compound NMN (nicotinamide mononucleotide), found in broccoli, edamame and avocado, is reduced in the body as age-related inflammation occurs. By including more NMN-containing foods in your diet as you get older, scientists argue, you can diminish age-related inflammation.

Click here for our Stuffed Avocado recipe.

Make fish your main dish

A study published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine found that diets rich in oily fish such as mackerel, tuna and trout greatly improve inflammation. Researchers discovered that an anti-inflammatory lipid in humans is also present in the essential fatty acids found in fish oil. Fish like salmon can help to reduce inflammation due to their high concentration of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are widely known to improve conditions like cardiovascular disease and arthritis.

Researchers at the University of Nebraska Medical Center recently discovered that fish oil might suppress the growth of breast cancer cells due to the anti-inflammatory properties found in omega-3 fatty acids. The study suggests that the fish oil and other sources of omega-3 have the potential to control the growth of cancerous tumors and that the ability of omega-3 to suppress inflammation is one factor that could stop the spread of cancer.

Click here for our recipe for Roasted Wild Salmon with Warm Tomato Vinaigrette.

Fall in love with leafy greens

Dark, leafy greens are always an essential component of any anti-inflammatory diet. Leafy greens and dark vegetables such as kale, spinach, red cabbage and broccoli are high in vitamin K and other essential nutrients that aid in reducing inflammation in the body.

A 2018 study from the Francis Crick Institute provides evidence to suggest that diets rich in dark, leafy greens can help you to maintain healthy gut bacteria and prevent colon cancer. The reduction of gut inflammation due to changes in diet can greatly improve and reduce the risks of gut-related diseases, especially colon cancer. Diets rich in indole-3-carbinol, a compound found in almost all brassica vegetables (i.e., broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale and more) is known to act as an anti-inflammatory agent in the gut.

Click here for our Lemon-Glazed Brussels Sprouts recipe.

Choose the right oil

We need heart-healthy fat in our diet; it is an important macronutrient. Olive oil is another great substitute for an anti-inflammatory diet. Not only is olive oil one of the healthiest fat sources, but also it is widely known for its anti-inflammatory properties.

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania and the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia discovered that oleocanthal, a naturally occurring compound in extra-virgin olive oil, can be utilized as a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agent, similar to the effects of ibuprofen. Katherine Zeratsky, RD, LD, suggests replacing butter and margarine with olive oil will “lower total cholesterol and…may benefit insulin levels and blood sugar control, which can be helpful if you have or are at risk of type 2 diabetes.”

Click here for our Walnut Cake with Olive Oil recipe.

Go nuts over nuts

What about snacks? Various nuts, including pistachios and walnuts, should accompany an anti-inflammatory diet. Researchers at Penn State suggest that the antioxidants found in pistachios further aid in reducing inflammation in the blood vessels and lowering cholesterol. Antioxidants help to prevent LDL from causing inflammation and plaque buildup in blood vessels. LDL is the main contributor to high cholesterol and heart disease.

Moreover, the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center published a study suggesting walnuts have positive effects on bacteria in the gut. Researchers found that the addition of walnuts to a diet can result in a change in the essential makeup of gut bacteria. By doing so, walnuts can provide diverse bacteria like Lactobacillus, necessary for combating obesity and inflammatory bowel disease. As well, the consumption of walnuts has been shown to lower the risks for cardiovascular disease and slow the growth of tumors.

Click here for our Maple Rosemary Mixed Nuts recipe.

Buy blueberries fresh or frozen

According to the Society for Neuroscience, blueberries have been found to contain compounds that reduce the inflammation that targets the central nervous system. Researchers from the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, discovered that compounds found within blueberries interact positively with protein molecules in human neuronal cells, effectively reducing inflammation throughout the nervous system, specifically in the brain and spinal cord.

Further research at the University of South Florida found that supplementing blueberries into the diets of elderly rats increased brain circuitry, enhanced brain function, and reduced inflammation caused by aging in just eight weeks. While the rats were supplemented 2 percent blueberry extract into their overall diets, it would only require approximately half a cup of blueberries to yield similar results in humans. When they are not in season, consider buying blueberries frozen.

Consume nature’s candy

Last but not least, beyond blueberries alone, a variety of mixed berries make an excellent dessert. Multiple studies conducted by researchers at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and Tufts University found that the consumption of berries can positively influence brain function and reduce inflammation by combating toxic accumulation.

Both blackberries and strawberries have been cited as being beneficial to anti-inflammatory diets, targeting various brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Similar to compounds found in blueberries, blackberries are believed to aid in healthy brain function and reduced aging in the brain. As well, anti-inflammatory properties in acai berries, cherries and cranberries are known to assist in cancer prevention, arthritis, gout and urinary tract health. In general, it is suggested that fruits and vegetables with dark, vibrant colors tend to aid in the reduction of inflammation throughout the body.

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